One of our clients recently brought in a computer that they had purchased for gaming. What he initially thought was a great deal on a computer custom-built for his hobby, turned out to be the start of an ongoing saga of repeated visits and calls to the Monocera office, wondering why his computer had stopped working again.
Our client — let’s call him Paul — had purchased a custom built (whitebox) computer.
As Paul quickly found out, we vehemently do not recommend purchasing a whitebox computer, even if it is just for gaming and personal use. In our opinion, the cons far outweigh the pros.
If you’re sitting on the other side of the screen and have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about, or even if you’re thinking of purchasing a whitebox computer yourself, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll explain what a whitebox computer is, the issues they commonly run into it and provide our recommendation.
What is a whitebox computer?
A whitebox computer is a brandless computer, built out of common and readily available parts. While a Dell computer will be made from Dell parts, a whitebox computer will be a mash-up of all sorts of different manufacturers.
Whitebox computers are usually built by computer shop or other IT providers, often with gaming in mind. Generally, whitebox computers are cheaper than their big brand name equivalents.
Why are they called whitebox computers?
Imaginatively, the term whitebox comes from the colour of the box that computers usually come in – white. Take away any distinguishing logos from the original brand or manufacturer, and it’s not hard to see why they’re called whitebox.
You’ve heard of white label or generic products before, right? Whiteboxes are the same.
Are they worth it?
In our opinion, the costs of a whitebox computer far outweigh the benefits. Any initial savings will likely be outstripped by the money and time you spend on repairs.
But – we always recommend you do your own research before making a decision. To give you a place to start, here are some of the initial costs and benefits of purchasing a whitebox computer.
What are the benefits of whitebox computers?
Obviously, there are a couple perceived benefits of purchasing a whitebox desktop computer — hence their popularity.
Here are the most common reasons people purchase these computers:
Whitebox computers are not some one-size-fits-all, home-brand-style set up. They come in a myriad of size, shapes and uses – from smaller, cheap desktops for students looking to save money, to custom-built behemoths used by serious gamers.
For avid gamers in particular, the ability to upgrade certain parts of the computer (i.e., graphics card or cooling system) may be a very attractive option. In other words, you can build your computer to match the style of games you play. Computer users who are looking to have the best tech as soon as it’s available can also obtain this dream with a whitebox setup.
As we will explain later, however, this may not always be possible.
Whitebox computers are often sold at a lower price than their big-name brand equivalents. Understandably, this is a major factor in any purchasing decision, not just for computers.
As we mentioned earlier though, any initial savings can quickly be far outstripped by future issues.
What are the downsides of buying a whitebox computer?
In our opinion, there are several downsides to buying a whitebox computer. We’ll explain each in their own detail:
Okay, we know we listed the customisability as a benefit of these computers, so how can less choice be a cost?
Very often, you may not be able to select the specific parts that go into your computer. For example, if you only wanted more memory and an upgraded power unit, you may be forced to purchase a whole extra level up.
This means you may end up paying for extra features you do not need, just to get the ones you want.
This is one of our biggest gripes with whitebox computers – warranty.
With a Dell or other brand–name computer, every stock piece of the build is covered under warranty – from the motherboard to the memory sticks.
With a whitebox computer, on the other hand, each different part of the computer will fall under its own warranty and may even void the warranty on other individual parts.
You don’t need to be tech-whiz to see how this has the potential to become a real problem every time your computer has a hardware issue.
Today, all our devices are interconnected; from your phone syncing up to your computer, which then casts to a boardroom screen, which in turn syncs with the webcam.
Whitebox computers often have major issues when it comes to compatibility and pairing with other devices or programs.
Remember above when we talked about being at the cutting-edge? While the thought of installing the latest and greatest graphics card in your custom computer case sounds good – it might not fit your current computer case, or motherboard, or provide a better experience if the rest of the computer can’t keep up!
The issues we encounter when trying to repair a whitebox computer are some of the most frustrating problems for both our clients and us.
Obviously, repairs are less straightforward when the computer is made up of parts from several different brands.
This is because new replacement pieces may not be compatible with what’s in your computer. What’s even more frustrating, is the fact that we may not know the replacement piece is incompatible with your computer until after we have ordered it and tried installing.
This issue alone can turn a relatively straightforward repair job into a major ordeal of trial and error; repeatedly stabbing in the dark trying to find compatible replacement pieces.
Are whiteboxes still popular?
Whitebox computer set ups have decreased in popularity over the years. Namely due to the growing popularity of laptop computers and the increased demand for being able to work remotely.
You only need to look at the statistics for computer sales in 2020. As the pandemic forced many of us to reevaluate the way we work, the total sale of all computers in Australia grew 11.8% in 2020. Despite this, total desktop sales dropped 8.6%, whereas commercial sale of laptops increased by 11% and consumer sale increased by a whopping 29.3%.
In saying this, whitebox computers still remain a popular option in certain communities – like gamers.
If you are thinking of purchasing a whitebox computer, our recommendation is to come speak to us first. We’ll be able to walk you through your options properly and let you know whether you’re better off purchasing a whitebox setup or spending a bit extra on a name brand.